Bryn Mawr Classical Review 97.4.20


A.K. Bowman, E. Champlin, and A. Lintott (edd.), The Cambridge Ancient History, 2nd Edition, vol. 10: The Augustan Empire, 43 BC-AD 69. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996. Pp. 1,138. $150.00. ISBN 0-521-26430-8.


Reviewed by Kathryn E. Welch, Ancient History, University of Sydney, Kathryn.Welch@antiquity.su.edu.au.

According to the editors' preface to the new Cambridge Ancient History vol. 10, the contributors were asked for a summary of the present state of knowledge organised around the 'orthodoxy' and 'the divergent points of view' on a range of topics concerning the period 43 BC to AD 69. The result is 978 pages of text with appendices and a substantial bibliography. The work is divided into four major parts. Part 1 is a political narrative (Pelling, Crook, Gruen, Wiedemann), Part 2 deals with government and administration of the Empire, including the Court (Wallace-Hadrill), finances (Rathbone), the senatorial and equestrian posts (Talbert), provincial administration (Bowman), a review of the army and navy (Keppie), legal administration (Galsterer). Part 3 takes us on a 'tour of the provinces'. Chapter 13 is divided into ten subsections on the 'western provinces' (Crawford on Italy, Wilson on Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica, Alföldy on Spain, Goudineau on Gaul, Wacher on Britain, Rüger on Germany, Wolff on Raetia, Wilkes on the Danubian and Balkan provinces, Whittaker on Africa, Reynolds and Lloyd on Cyrene). Chapter 14 deals with the East in four subsections (Levick on Greece, Cyprus and Asia Minor, Bowman on Egypt, Kennedy on Syria, Goodman on Judaea). Part 4 reviews Roman society and culture (Purcell on the city of Rome, Price on religion, Clarke on the origins and spread of Christianity, Treggiari on social status and social legislation, Townend on literature, Torelli on art, Frier on private law). Although not all of the text is even in quality, this array of scholars and topics provides, as one would expect, a wealth of ideas and information.

There is a definite rationale behind the volume, highlighted best, perhaps, by comparing the structure both with the earlier first edition and with volume 9 of the second edition, to which it is closely linked. The first edition of vol. 10 is nearly all narrative. It deals principally, and unashamedly, with the period of Augustus' domination, and AD 14-70 is tacked on the end. Much of the second edition is still devoted to Augustus, but the narrative has been far more sensibly organised and a thematic approach is used to include other material where appropriate. Chapters 13 and 14 and large parts on Part 4 move the focus away from Augustus, Rome and even individuals. There is a subtle but major distinction between a chapter entitled 'Herod of Judaea' (1st ed.) and 'Judaea' (2nd ed.), though the latter chapter certainly deals with Herod. To the chapter on the spread of Christianity, Augustus is hardly relevant. Such a chapter could not, and did not, fit the scheme of the first edition, but the new work would be the poorer for its exclusion. Thus a flexible scheme allows a wider variety of current studies to be placed alongside each other for the benefit of a new generation.

On the whole, volume 9 and volume 10 of the second edition complement each other. Purcell has used to advantage the opportunity to write in both volumes. His contribution to volume 9 discusses the different people who made up Rome, while in volume 10, he concentrates on the architectural and other physical changes to the city in the period of Augustus and his successors. He promises a third part in volume 11 and we look forward to its appearance. Roman private law is successfully divided between the two volumes. Whereas Crook covers the concepts of private law in volume 9, Frier examines developments in the 'schools' of jurists in the later period and how the relationship between the centre and the legal 'experts' generated new legal conditions. There is some overlap between the two volumes. There are excellent features in Galsterer's discussion of legal administration in volume 10, but he possibly did not need to trace its history back to Sulla, as Crook does cover this within the earlier volume. Certain innovations in volume 9, for example, M. Griffin's discussion of intellectual developments, were not continued into the Julio-Claudian period. The nearest equivalent to Griffin is Townend's 'Literature and Society' which deals more with familiar material and is less adventurous as an approach.

Volume 10 is not without anomalies and oversights. The masterly discussion by Crook on Augustus' methods and achievements and the more problematic contribution of Gruen on Augustan foreign 'policy' are not narrative. Analysis (as opposed to narrative) of the political changes perhaps needed its own space. There is no discussion of the actual administration of Rome itself, although there are chapters on provincial administration, legal and structural changes and other relevant topics. There is no sustained discussion of the technological aspects of architecture and engineering of the period apart from fascinating and tantalising references in Purcell's contribution. A further issue is the lack of cross-referencing both within the volume itself and to relevant contributions in volume 9. Although one can readily appreciate the nightmares this would have caused the editors, there were many places where cross-referencing to volume 9 would have been helpful (and a common editor might have made it possible). With the repetitions and re-working of themes which occur within volume 10, the lack of cross-referencing, especially to the many divergent points of view, is a pity. The decision to include Crawford's work on the relationship between Italy and Rome in the period between Sulla and Augustus, commented on in the prefaces of both volume 9 and 10, remains problematic. I feel (contrary to the opinion of the editors in both volumes) that the chapter ultimately belonged in volume 9 for two reasons. The first, as Fergus Millar stated ('The last Century of the Republic: whose history?, JRS, 85, 1995, 240), is that it is sadly missed there. Secondly, in placing it in chapter 13 of vol. 10, the discussion lies buried in the 'tour of the provinces' when it does something quite different from the other sections of that chapter. It might have blended far better with the fabric of volume 9. It is good that such an informative piece of work has appeared in this series, unfortunate that it is short (covering pp. 414-433 as opposed to pp. 464-502, with more promised, on Gaul and pp. 545-585 on the Danubian and Balkan provinces). Ultimately, though, the problem with its placement in volume 10 is that there is no consideration of the administration and development of Italy after the period of Crawford's study.

The editors, as their scheme reveals, do show a great degree of imagination. Yet another break with the past might have been achieved. The publication of a separate volume of plates better suited an age which did not take that much notice of visual material. In a volume where most contributors are well aware of relevant archaeological material and the importance of all types of evidence, the lack of plates is unfortunate. This is especially so in the case of Torelli's chapter on art. The sparing use of maps and diagrams sits oddly with present fashion. One can only hope that the volume of plates to accompany this text will appear soon and will be generously extensive.

The reluctance of the editors to place too schematic a formula on the contributors has inevitably led to a degree of overlap. In the preface, they recognise that separate discussions of Judaea and Christianity might cover the same ground. In fact, this does not seem to present a problem. I was more aware that Purcell had stolen some of the ground from both Price and Treggiari in discussing religious and social conditions, that the subsections on Gaul and Germany were prone to merge, and that Crook's chapter on Augustus introduced themes which reappear in the treatments by Wallace-Hadrill, Purcell, Price and Townend. This would not be apparent to anyone who merely 'dips into' the work and indeed the treatment of the same material by different authors on the whole enriches rather than diminishes its value. Although a more efficient scheme with a more stringent brief might have produced a more tightly knit volume, it also might have been lesser than the published result.

Perhaps more editorial direction could have been given to those writing the subsections of chapters 13 and 14. Some of these tend towards narrative description which tended to drag. These fall short, I feel, of those contributions which focus on issues, such as the economy and society of an area or its relationship to Rome (the chapters on Gaul and Africa are particularly cohesive and interesting). As a package, however, these two chapters more than any other single feature of the volume justify both the genre of the CAH and the production of a new edition. A survey of all the provinces of the Roman empire from a largely provincial point of view draws the eye of the reader away from the Roman centre and offers a wealth of perspective on the age which no shorter or more specialised study could achieve on its own. For example, we are confronted by the fact of Augustus' absence from Rome for most of the twenties BC (something we know but do not always realise so clearly as when we read Alföldy's contribution); Augustus' policy in Parthia of making sure that a member of his family was relatively close as often as possible makes sense in the terms of how politics and diplomacy worked in that region, as explained by Kennedy in his contribution on Syria (contra Gruen in chapter 4); the fact that areas such as Raetia, Sardinia and Illyria remained so difficult to control remind us that the areas closest in a geographical sense were often the hardest to influence. The fact that Augustus did not always pull the strings but had to react to different conditions in individual regions of the empire becomes manifest as we view the diversity of peoples and geographical areas covered by 'the Roman empire'. The questions raised as one reads through these two chapters are a testament to the effectiveness of the overall approach, and gives this contribution a collective value beyond the sum of its considerable parts.

Closer to my own area of interest is the attention to structural change and the mechanics of life under Augustus and his successors. Shifts of this nature ensured that the clock could not be turned back even had anyone wished to do so. Although (regrettably) there is no individual chapter which brings all the strands together, throughout the work one perceives the fundamental change in how things were done. Crawford's contribution looks at changed language and institutions in Italy, in particular the significance of the loss of local calendars. Purcell's study shows that Rome's calendar had changed too. As he puts it, Augustus 'invaded the Roman calendar', ensuring a new and lasting everyday emphasis on the achievements and concerns of the 'divine family'. Larger alterations and shifts are more obvious. Galsterer, Talbert and Crook show that while magistrates often retained their republican titles, their duties changed or they were superseded by the creation and proliferation of new officials. What duties were left for quaestors, aediles and praetors after the creation of an office like the Augustan praefectura urbis? How important could the praetor be once he no longer had to write the laws or run the courts? The shift towards the emperor as the source of law is followed up by Frier, Galsterer and others. More of the nature of structural change might have been present in the discussion of imperial finances (Rathbone) but there is certainly enough to see how resources were in the hands of the emperor and the imperial family. Wallace-Hadrill, in his discussion of the court, adds further to our understanding of the new style of politics and how it relates the Roman household of a previous age (but differs from it). We see that the appropriation of the Palatine and the physical spaces of Rome by the emperor reflect political realities even when that emperor might be polite and respectful towards the senate and senators (Purcell, Price, Torelli). Price also examines the growing 'sanctification' of Rome itself as well as the imperial family in this period, which changes the fundamental basis of Roman religious expression and understanding. The constant references both to the process of veteran settlement as an agent for change and the 'imperial cult' demonstrate that the provinces could no more turn their backs on the Augustan age than the Romans themselves. Patronage and its new role in the Imperial scheme is another theme, well-worked by Crook, Wallace-Hadrill and Townend and fundamental to Wiedemann's narrative of AD 14-69. These processes permeate the volume. It is a pity that the threads were not taken up and analysed in one place, and that the connections to the later years of the Republic and Caesarian regime were not more fully explored, but they certainly provide the material for the individual reader to think about and digest.

The volume overall has some excellent individual contributions and I will not attempt to comment on all the vignettes which deserve it. I found Crook's discussion of Augustus' achievements and Pelling's perceptive (and long-awaited) narrative on the triumviral era particularly thought-provoking but others will find their own personal favourites.

Provoking in another sense is Gruen's chapter on Augustus' foreign policy. Perhaps having lost hope that he would ever see the CAH2 10 in print, Gruen has already substantially reproduced this thesis in other places, notably in K. Raaflaub and M. Toher (eds), Between Republic and Empire, 1990, ch. 18 where the chapter was shortened but not changed substantially. It is therefore a thesis with which we are already familiar and I feel it is problematic. Gruen sees the only consistent feature of Augustus' foreign policy as his attention to public presentation and imperial ideology. Of course ideology was important, and of course Augustus would present his 'achievements' in their best possible light to the Roman people, even to the extent of 'being economical with the truth' (what Roman general would not). Yet to say that so long as Augustus could do so, he was less worried by actual realities of conquest and annexation runs counter not only to the evidence presented in chapters 13 and 14 but to Gruen's own meticulous description of events as we understand them. Augustus did not stop once he held his magnificent triumph over Spain: he retained his most trusted general, Agrippa, in the area to finish the job and did not relent until the province was thoroughly subjugated. In Germany, consistent involvement of both large numbers of troops and high-profile members of the imperial family from the 30s BC until AD 14 show the on-going concern with real conquest. The roll call of generals is impressive: Agrippa, Vinicius, Agrippa again, Augustus himself, Drusus, Tiberius, Quinctilius Varus, Germanicus and Drusus Minor. The fact of the matter is that Augustus was prevented by the Germans themselves from settling the area, as Varus was in the process of attempting to do. After the disaster he and Tiberius had to move to damage-control. Even though it is true to say, and Gruen says it, that the individual response to a situation depended on circumstances (as Kennedy demonstrates with Syria and Parthia), the desire for annexation and subjugation as in Spain and Germany (as indeed also in Egypt, Judaea and Syria) is as consistent as the ideology, although it is perhaps not always as successful.

The volume is well-presented, with long chapters being broken into useable, well-sign-posted sub-sections. In such a massive production, one would expect a few typographical errors and it would be invidious to quibble. However, I do hope that a later reprint might remove the unnecessary apostrophe from the neuter possessive pronoun on p. 402. I would argue with one point of substance. Rüger (p. 522-3) suggests the Hirtius' issue of bronze coinage using the standard of the Treveri reflects the 'triumphal elephant ride' of Domitius Ahenobarbus in 121 BC. He dates the issue to Hirtius' propraetorship in 45 BC. The issue in fact copies Caesar's own issue, dated by Crawford to the early 40s (Crawford, RRC no. 443) and was probably produced at the same time or slightly later, but surely not after Hirtius had produced the massive gold series during his praetorship of 46 BC (RRC no. 466). The stress on a close relationship to Caesar in fact strengthens the substance of Rüger's argument at this point rather than weakens it.

A volume of this nature is not designed to break new ground. The delayed date of publication alone would have prevented this, and one can sympathise with the anguished footnote at the beginning of some chapters of scholars pleading for understanding. Yet what the Cambridge Ancient History does is to bring together different strands of current scholarship into a single book and to allow a uniquely synoptic view of the early empire as a whole and the important processes it underwent as well as a perceptive study of the major individuals of the period. The majestic style of many of the contributors in the presentation of their material only adds to the benefits. It brings the work of some major European scholars into English. Those many who read only individual chapters pertaining to their interests or who plunder the extensive and well-organised bibliography will find the information and the approaches to be well worth their time. Its greatest value, however, will be felt by the student who reads most of the 978 pages and appendices because its cumulative effect is excellent.